Kyle Young ended his freshman season as a healthy scratch in Ohio State’s final four games. He didn’t play at Indiana in a double-overtime thriller to close the regular season, in a Big Ten tournament loss to Penn State or in either NCAA Tournament game for the Buckeyes.
It’s not a reflection of Young’s abilities or potential, however. Minutes were always going to be hard to come by with Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop and grizzled senior Jae’Sean Tate directly ahead of him on the depth chart in the post.
That can still be a tough situation to deal with, especially for a player like Young who went from being the highest-rated recruit in Butler history to a rotation player after following Chris Holtmann to Ohio State.
C.J. Jackson saw that. Ohio State’s lone recruited scholarship senior this year, Jackson transferred in from Eastern Florida State as a sophomore and struggled to find his footing before blossoming into a lead guard for the Buckeyes.
He knows what Young might be going through as he approaches the summer leading into his sophomore season. And it’s why he has taken the 6-8 power forward under his metaphorical wing.
“I just don’t think he understands what he can bring to the table,” Jackson said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think he understands how good he is sometimes, so guys like that, you want to be a bug in their ear and keep telling them, ‘Just keep coming, just keep coming,’ and those days where it’s hard or he doesn’t feel like it, those are the days that you really push him. If you do it consistently, he’ll trust you.”
That bond will be important as the Buckeyes look to replace three starters and a key reserve. Young is a leading candidate to assume Bates-Diop’s starting spot, and Holtmann showed his confidence in him last season during a pair of games against Michigan. Young averaged 21.5 minutes against the Wolverines and 6.3 minutes in his other 12 Big Ten appearances.
Tim Debevec, Young’s high school coach at Massillon (Ohio) Jackson, said the program takes pride in his development.
“As a coach at a public school, we’re going to get a kid like Kyle, a Big Ten kid, once every 15-20 years,” he said last week while at Ohio State’s team camp. “To see one of our kids made it to a big school, it’s a pleasure. I came down to 4-5 games last year and we brought our team down for the first game to watch him. It was cool for our kids to see, listen, if you work hard, it can happen in Jackson.”
Debevec said Jackson’s team will make it to more games this year and that he’s excited to see Young’s progression as a player.
“He’s been working hard,” he said. “He’s got to have a big offseason. I expect him to work hard and either challenge for a starting position or minutes as a backup. Excited for him.”
And along the way, Jackson will preach a message taught to him by Jae’Sean Tate early in his Ohio State career.
“When I first got here, I didn’t always have confidence in myself, especially through the bad times,” Jackson said. “Those were the times you need other people to lift you up and not always tell you what you’re doing wrong or how you can improve, just tell you maybe the few things you are doing right. That’s what I try to harp on (Kyle) about.
“(Jae’Sean was) telling me keep coming, keep it going. There’s no point in stopping now. You worked all this time to get to where you are, so you might as well get the most you can get out of it.”